Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday after Easter

As I’ve been pondering Christ’s life this Easter week, I’ve been thinking of ways to follow Him, serving others, keeping the commandments, praying, reading scriptures, the usual stuff.

Another thought kept coming into my mind: Gracefully receiving the service of others. He showed the way, even here.

His apostles tried to stop the woman from using expensive ointment on Him, He did not refuse. He told them it was a good thing for her to provide that service. It was also for that good woman. He knew she would gain the feeling that can only come from serving others. Think of how you felt when someone refused your service. Maybe that hasn’t happened to you, but I can say from personal experience—it stings.

Also, He didn’t have a place to sleep, nor food to eat without relying on others. That doesn’t mean we should expect others to provide for us what we can provide for ourselves. He labored hard in service of all mankind. What he was doing during his ministry has eternal consequences for all humanity. They called him the Carpenter, so I think it’s safe to assume he built things to earn his bread before that time. However, during this stage of his life, he was willing to let others serve Him.

The third and final item I’m going to mention is his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He knew what needed to be done. He didn’t shrink and say he didn’t need a donkey, and insist he could walk. He sent for the donkey prepared to carry him into the city. As people put down their cloaks and palm leaves, He didn’t rebuke them, or falsely tell them he didn’t deserve it. He knew hard things lay ahead—harder than any of us will ever know.

He didn’t allow pride seep into his perfection. When the woman wanted to anoint him, he didn’t come off with a fake sense of pride that he wasn’t worthy of such a thing. When he needed bread, he didn’t let pride get in the way of allowing others to feed him. He knew who he was, and that in order to fulfill prophesy, he accepted the adoration and honor of that triumphal entry.

Pride is a sneaky thing. Often receiving is harder than giving. I wonder if someone spent his or her life refusing to receive gifts and help from others if they would turn down the mansions He offers them. This life is where we learn how to serve others, and need to search for those opportunities. It’s also a time to learn how to receive graciously: Otherwise how can we receive the greatest gift of all—the atonement of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How Lucky Are You?

Whether or not you're Irish, odds are good you'll get pinched today if you go out among the pint-sized crowd without wearing green.  You'll also see friends posting pics of food that should never be green, and much yummier food--I recommend key lime pie--that's supposed to be green and is the real star today.  But the real question is, how lucky do you feel?

Recently my husband turned to me, just after we picked up lunch while out and told me we'd won a free sandwich of the kind we like.  I was a little surprised, because I don't usually win things...and then I realized, I also don't look at my receipts as religiously as he does, and that's how he learned we'd won.

Coincidence?  Not at all.  We've known for at least the last decade that to a large extent, people make their own luck.  Those who feel lucky confirm their own luck, by looking for it.  They do this by being open to new experiences and people--you can read about that Scientific American article here--and by reaffirming their own luck, as discussed here.

Seems simple, right?  Maybe not, but the one thing we can all do is make sure we notice the good things in life, and give thanks each day.  In other words, make sure our view of the storm remembers the rainbow, too.  And if you find that pot of gold?  Remember, it was me who sent you looking for rainbows. ;)


Protecting Our Children Online

I recently attended a lecture titled: Innocence Stolen: Protecting Our Children Online by Vince DeVivo, the community outreach specialist for the US Attorney's Office in Maryland. 

It was well done, and a little terrifying. 

The point was how to protect teens/tweens from negative and criminal influences online, including but not limited to: social networks, cyber bullying, sexting, and internet predators (shudder).

Bottom line: YOU ARE YOUR OWN FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE!

Which means we have to teach our children to be their own first line of defense/advocate/champion. If we successfully teach them now, then hopefully they'll avoid many Internet pitfalls.

I took notes and you'll also see pictures of the handouts in this blog post. Use the information to protect your children. Don't trust anyone, including schools, to protect them as well as you will. Feel free to go ALL MAMA BEAR, without freaking out your child.

Fun Facts: 
94% of teens 12-19 use the Internet
84% have a social media profile
84% of teens access a cell phone
88% text
It only takes 20 minutes to track down an individual and their location on the Internet. Less if there's a pic.
Colleges check social media for digital footprints. Employers too. 1/3 of employers throw out applications once they check.


Internet Predators:
They are like hunters: they look for those on the fringe of the pack, the weak, the slow, etc. They use social media to attract your child. They shower them with attention, kindness, even gifts. They are sympathetic and good listeners who are up on the trends. This all takes place silently between them and your child on a screen. They eventually introduce sexual content. Their goal: Face to Face interaction!


About Gen Y & Gen Z
Unfortunately the GEN Y kids have a sense of entitlement and need a constant source of feedback for positive reinforcement and confidence. Their attitudes and values are shaped by the Internet.

The GEN Z kids are the most tech savvy generation ever. (Ever seen that two year old with mom's Iphone? That's what we're talking about.) No patience and are always on tech. They are at greatest risk for cyber bullying, ID theft, gang influence, and illegal activity. They also have no time to sort out the truth! They also link self esteem to "likes" and "followers."

They need to know what a REAL friend is!

Privacy Policies are a joke. They are there to protect the company when it sells your "digital footprint" info to third parties.


How to control:
Ask your Internet carrier what tools are available and how much they cost?
You can put on hidden protection
GPS function/mapping your kids phone
Remember, when you take a picture all the metadata goes with it
Kids don't like privacy settings. They see them as a restriction rather than a protection. (Much like family rules/God's commandments.)

To the RIGHT is a list of major phone carriers and how to restrict/protect your kids.

Fun facts:posting % of teens
Real names: 92%
Interests: 84%
DOB: 82%
Relationship status: 62%
Video: 24%
Only 9% are worried about 3rd party access.

Social Media in use:
Facebook: declining
Instagram: selfie central, trending middle school teens posting nude pics
Ask.fm: can ask anonymous questions they don't want to ask anyone else (60 million users, 12 teen suicides linked to usage so far)
Twitter
Vine: 6 sec video loops
Tinder: online dating for hooking up/one night stands. Use GPS location.
Tumblr: access porn
Whisper: share secrets, express yourself, meet others
Snap Chat: photos and videos that "disappear." Sued by FTC and on 20 year monitoring (but nothing has really changed). I've already seen teens use this one with disastrous results!
Kik: anonymous scrolling text
YikYak: social media + GPS location w/in 1/2 mile radius
Cydia: "jailbroken" phone. A hack system to allow download of 3rd party apps so user can hide inappropriate content. Bonus: Google can teach you how to do it. (AHH!)
Meerkat & Periscope: turns phone into live broadcast TV with location.
Backpage.com is a human trafficking/prostitution site. BEWARE!

Below is a screen shot of the social media kids are using.



Do your kids use these? Do you monitor their use?
I don't even recognize half of them! My personal rule for my kids is, when they get old enough, they can only have social media I'm on.

Text abbreviations you should be worried about if you see them on your kid's phone:

ASL    F2F     RU18     LMZRU     GNOC     420     AMEZFU

Some of these relate that an adult is listening/seeing what they text, others are codes for drug use, or sex invites.


Cyberbullying:
Defined as willful repeated harm inflicted through media. 24/7. Groups of kids work together to target an individual or group using e-mail or IM. Bullies show little to no remorse. They think they have to bully to be popular.

Signs of Bullying:
Sadness
Withdrawl
Bruises
Visits to the nurse
Lots of bathroom trips or No bathroom trips
Avoids school
Cutting
Suicide ideas/attempts

Sadly, our family has already been subject to this one and there are far too many media examples of teen/tween deaths tied to this behavior.

Sexting:
20-40% nude/seminude
22% girls, 18% boys
3x greater than in the past

If caught, kids lose: education, sports opportunities, etc. Inflicts emotional damage.
If you get one, don't delete it. Report it to a trusted adult so it can be taken care of. Then DELETE!


Golden Rules:
If you don't want everyone to see it, DON'T post it!!!
Once you send it you can't take it back!
Real life applies online.
Don't talk to strangers.
Don't give out private info.
Permission should be required to be online.
NOTHING is PRIVATE on the INTERNET!!!
There is no such thing as PERMANENT DELETION!
Postings are FOREVER!!!
Nothing is FREE!
Find the GOOD online. 

Below are more tips.























Discuss the following with your kids:
What is inappropriate on the Internet?
What happens when you hit inappropriate content?
What do you do?
Can you talk to me (parent) about anything inappropriate you happen to see? Why or Why not?




The Internet can be used for both bad and good. Help protect your children from the bad. Show them how it can be used for making the world a better place.

What have you done to teach your kids Internet safety?


Monday, March 14, 2016

Unplug Your Head

by H. Linn Murphy

A boy (I'll call him Eric) goes home from school every day and flies to the computer to do video games. If his mother lets him, he's on that computer either playing his own games, or watching other people play games, talking to his friends while they play games, or watching cartoons based on games. He has hard wired himself to seek that entertainment to the exclusion of homework, chores, Eagle Project, stake dances, Family Home Evening, family outings, family performances, fire sides, or church work.

And he's supported and encouraged in this by his father (I'll call him Jack), who is doing much the same thing when he goes home from work. From Eric's earliest moments, he's seen his father come in the door and run straight to the computer. Often Jack will keep the computer on the table clear through dinner. He allows Eric to shrug off his mom's pleas to do chores until after he's done with that particular scenario, which can last another hour or so. Jack's wife (Maggie) wants to say something, but she gets shot down whenever she opens her mouth. If she does, she's nagging. Maggie is at the end of her soap-on-a-rope.

The times when Jack has chosen to go and do something other than that with Eric are minimal (other than Mutual or Scout Camp). Eric has never been enthusiastically encouraged by his father to play a sport, work on Scouting, or even make great grades. They do play D&D--another fighting game.

It's my premise that these games are re-wiring their minds. Jack's wife has noticed that the two are less able to connect mentally to a conversation which is not game-related. They have trouble discussing anything emotional, spiritual, or deep. They are less apt to have ambitions beyond killing the next monster. They choose more and more often to game, rather than to do anything with a present human.

Studies have been done involving a dog and a bell and food. When the scientist feeds the dog, he rings a bell. Soon the dog begins to salivate at merely the sound of the bell. People are much the same way. It's fairly easy to train them if you give them the right stimulation.

Other studies have been done on rats. The rats are given something good to eat if they ring a bell. Then the scientist administers a mild shock. If the rat has been trained long enough, he'll take the shock with the reward. Then the reward is made smaller and smaller, with the shock either staying the same or growing more intense. The rat has been trained that good things come with that shock, so they'll go for it, even when the return is smaller than the shock value. The rat will go willingly to its death avidly hitting that stimulation button.

It's the same with video gaming, I feel. Jack will hit that button even if Maggie  has begged him for a date for weeks. The entertainment value is simply not enough, now, to get him out of that chair. As a result of this on a large scale, they haven't had an adult dance in their ward/stake in years. I personally have been on ward and stake councils and asked about a dance or a track meet or a service day and the answer is always the same. No one will come.

It is said that in the last days Men's hearts will fail them. I agree. It's already happening. Divorce is sky-rocketing. Fragmented families are everywhere. Why? Part of the reason is media. We are losing our ability to communicate in a meaningful, face-to-face conversation. I have been to many church dances as a chaperone. Me and my husband will be the only couple on the dance floor. The kids will be clumped around the edges texting their friends--who might be ten feet away.

How are marriages supposed to be intimate if the people involved can't even strike up a conversation about something on the surface like grades or the grocery list, let alone something spiritual or deep? They become incapable of concentrating, of caring and of dragging up the interest in connecting with a human. How are our children supposed to learn these critical skills of coping, togetherness, intimacy, and real caring if they've only been taught to chop people's arms off and hop over the body in their quest for the next zombie?

This is an important conversation to have at the beginning of your marriage. You have to know if he's going to cave when the going gets tough, and hit that pleasure button over and over again (or you, for that matter). I'm not certain how one addresses this problem years into it. I'm still working on that myself.

About fifteen years ago I played an online game. I even coded for it, enjoying the creative process. I spent countless hours both constructing the game, and playing. It was a multi-user dimension text-based game much like the video games. One day I looked up after playing all night, only to find the sun coming up. I couldn't believe it. Then my daughters got up, and I realised I had paid for my hours of entertainment with their baby minutes. I'd been so busy pushing the button that I'd traded away those precious first smiles and many of their baby coos. I got off and didn't get on for some three weeks. When I did so, my fifty-five level elf lord had been erased from the game and all of those countless hours of work and play had been lost. And who cared? Not a single soul. I had nothing to show for it. Nothing but regret.

Unplug your head. Go outside. Notice the green trees and that there are animals out there. Take your spouse on a walk or a run or to a dance or to the store or on a hike or camping. Let her (or him) know that she's/he's more important than a tiny little collection of pixels. Because after it's all said and done, you may win that video game, but who cares?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Say Yes to One More Thing...Jewel Allen

We have a new author with us:  Jewel Allen!!  We are so happy to have her on board to post her wisdom and tell us what her life has been like.

Check out her website www.JewelAllen.com
and wonderful writings: http://www.treasuredstories.net/


Say yes to one more thing
by Jewel Allen

Say whaaat? You are probably asking as you stare, bleary-eyed at your computer screen, thinking of that to-do list that perpetually hangs over your head. In this day of minimizing, downsizing, and simplifying, this advice runs contrary.

You see, I’m trying to save us all from turning into dry husks of coconut. I’m pushing us all to live real. Because unless you are experiencing life, your creative efforts will most likely remain flat, lacking that spark.

But what about Jane Austen, you ask? She lived, by all accounts, in a quiet household in a quiet town. Thing is, behind her demure fa├žade, she people-watched. She noted drama, loves won and loves lost, and lucky for us, added her observations to her fiction.

It is very tempting as a writer to say no to everything that draws us away from our writing. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat at my computer instead of joining my family upstairs to watch a movie. When my family’s out riding horses, I’m revising a manuscript for the zillionth time. Sometimes, saying no is essential when you’ve spent the day on laundry, carpooling, milk runs and errands to the post office – everything but writing.

Oftentimes, however, we go too far.

Faced with opportunities to live, really live, we choose to opt out. We tell ourselves, “I cannot (fill in the blank) because I need to be writing.” As we retreat to ourselves, we end up stagnant. We may be a more productive writer, but as a human, we are under-developed.

I’ve been guilty of this, stripping my life to the bare essentials. Running my kids to school and doing the minimum possible before hiding out in my house to write the great American novel. What I lacked in excitement, I contrived on the written page. It was safe, shallow, and I’ll have to admit, boring.

To deepen and enrich our writer lives, we must be willing to get out and knock on doors.

On my wall in my home office, I have six framed photos of colorful doors. I’d taken these photos in Dublin, Ireland, two years ago visiting my sister. The doors fascinated me. They represented a paradox -   safety (a closed door) and boldness (vivid colors). I took a lot of photos, not knowing what I’d do with them, but now I’m glad. I finally put them up this past month on my wall, as a photo gallery, intending to pair it with the quote, “Doors will open to those bold enough to knock.”

We can only say yes to things if we knock on that door. Invited to proceed, we must actually turn the knob and go inside.

It has taken me the past twenty years to realize this. During that time, I worked as a journalist. I loved that I could file stories electronically and still be a stay-at-home mom. I loved that I could be privy to my subjects’ most intimate thoughts and aspirations. But I also suffered from envy. My subjects led interesting lives whereas I was simply observing.

Faced with the choice to remain a journalist or jump full-on into activism and politics, I knocked on the political door and opened it. This past year, I ran for city council and won. It was a hard decision. How could I write and be in politics? It seemed not only a time drain but four years of subject restrictions.

And yet I am finding it has given me a new lease on my creativity. I meet interesting individuals, learn my community’s back story, and can write with authority about politics. Whether or not I use this material someday, I am learning a lot about life and people.

Not everyone has the constitution nor the interest to run for office. Or something equally time-consuming. Because I won’t lie; it takes time and energy.

So start simple. Even volunteering in a child’s classroom can teach you something. When my daughter was in sixth grade, I volunteered to help in hers. My job was to pull aside a student out in the hall and practice math flash cards. I was supposed to teach them, in a fashion, and yet in reality they taught me. Week after week, I got to know these children, older beyond their years. They faced challenges in their home life which they candidly shared with me. They taught me that some things are more important and consequential than the correct answer to “eight times eight.”

As my kids have grown, I’ve said yes to being a journalist, opinion columnist, lead singer of a rock band, ghostwriter, author, activist, and now, politician. Some days, I feel like I am about as wrung out as I can be and have nothing more to give. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, taken risks, failed resoundingly in very public ways, eaten humble pie, and second guessed myself at every turn.

But there have also been other days when I meet people or end up in situations that lead to interesting opportunities. Like colorful doors, they beckon for me to knock, open and discover. I might not have all the time in the world to devote to writing, but I will have lived a life worth writing about.

And isn’t that worth saying yes to, today?





Jewel Allen is an award-winning journalist, author, ghostwriter, mom and politician. Read about her adventures on www.jewelallen.com.